Wine Talk

Snooth User: Mark Angelillo

Good Article About Decanting

Posted by Mark Angelillo, May 6, 2009.

Explains some of the science behind why it's important, and what "closed" actually is...


Reply by Hugo Sauaia, May 6, 2009.

A believe that decanting is a controversial subject. I´ve had a teacher who believed that it is much better to simply open up the bottle of wine hours before the tasting begins, depending on how old the wine actually is you may prolong or shorten the number of hours, and he even provided us with a little chart for this calculation. He thinks as he says, that pouring a wine into a decanter, is like ripping off a woman´s clothes, because a delicate wine, especially when it has been bottled for a very long time with no oxygen would be all of a sudden exposed to lots of air, too fast and too intensely. I´d like to hear everyone´s opinion on this issue. Somebody please ask Greg to give his opinion. I appreciated very much the information on sulfur compounds that would obliterate the aromas of wine. The article is certainly a very nice contribution for our usual talks. Congratulations.

Reply by Gantt Hickman, May 6, 2009.

Your Teachers opinion on this matter makes sense to me. I had never thought of it like that before, but think it is a very interesting point. It is quite the abrupt change that might shake the wine up a little more than it needs to be (definitely faster.)

Reply by Mark Angelillo, May 6, 2009.

Hugo -- Good point. The article does take note of the potential of damaging an older bottle, and of destroying the freshness of a white wine. Best to weigh in the age of the bottle and the characteristics of the grape variety. Some wines will be naturally more finicky.

Reply by Gregory Dal Piaz, May 8, 2009.

There are so many variables with decanting I could write a book.

Ok lets start off by saying that decanting rules are not universal but rather can surprisingly specific. This applies to grape, region and vintage.

For example take two bottles from 1979, one a california cab the other a Barolo of equal quality. Here are the 2 approaches I would take with these very different wines.

To begin with both wines can use some time to blow off the "bottle stink" that usually accompanies wines this old. That can be accomplished either by opening the bottle, perhaps pouring off a bit of wine to increase the exposed surface area of the wine, and letting it slowly oxygenate. This technique with both bottles will probably take the better part of an hour to really get going.

The second step, and one which is vital for old wines, is actually decanting the wine off the sediment so that the bottle can be drunk in it's entirely without having the wine muddied by stirred up sediment. I generally enjoy wines at restaurants or friends homes so I always double decant wines that have dropped noticeable sediment. Since I am traveling with the wines they are poured back into their bottles, double decanted, for their trip.

So now the question is how long can a wine be slowly oxygenated and is it preferable to decanting? In general the older california cabernets I enjoy tend to open fairly quickly and fully express themselves within a bout 3 hours of being double decanted. In this case sitting in an opened bottle for half a day at cellar temp may allow for much the same development as double decanting and waiting 3 hours.

Now in the case of the 1979 Barolo after being double decanted these wines have tended to improve until the bottles were done, over a period of 5, 6 or more hours. The surface area of the wine sitting in an opened bottle is simply too small to allow for the transfomation that happens in bottle post double decanting.

The point? I would follow different regimens with each and every wine I open.

My ideal? Open the bottle before lunch and have an ounce or two to enjoy what the wine has to offer at that early stage. Lets not forget that the aromas of wine are caused by compounds volatilizing out of suspension. Once they are gone, they are gone so the wine that you smell at noon will not be the wine you smell at 7.

So once you've had a taste allow the wine to slowly oxygenate until about 4 or 5 in the bottle, at which point decant the wine off it's sediment, and enjoy a half glass or so. If it's a cali cab, back in the bottle it goes, if its Barolo I let it remain in the decanter. Serve antipasto around 7-8, dinner around 9, and enjoy the wines until they are done, around midnight.

One additional trick to doing this right? Open a lot of wine early on! Enjoy each wine slowly and through the course of the night watching each wine change and evolve. It's much better than drinking one bottle after the next of freshly opened wine!

Reply by Hugo Sauaia, May 8, 2009.

Greg, It is impressive how you deal with these wine issues so remarkably well. Thank you very much for your enlightening contribution. Here´s a stupid question. When your double decanting it means you´re gonna pour the wine from the first decanter to the second one, right? Otherwise, I mean, if you pour it back into the bottle the wine will get in touch with at least part of the sediment again, or would you wash up the bottle or something? I don´t think so. Let me hear from you, I don´t have any practice on double decanting. Another question. You have talked here about strong wine, californian cabs, barolos, great tanins, etc.. and how about decanting a gamay wine or perhaps a white mineral wine, ou a sweet wine like a tokay, how you do it? It may be a lot to ask, as you said, there may be enough for a book, but, god, I am curious. lol Thanks again.

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